RootsTech Conference: Blessing invoked upon family history consultants
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Concluding a panel discussion taking up a wide range of questions from ward family history consultants, Elder Richard G. Scott on Feb. 12 invoked an apostolic blessing on them and their work.
The discussion was in connection with the consultants' training, a component of the three-day RootsTech family history and technology conference that convened in Salt Lake City at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
"As one of the Twelve Apostles, I would like to invoke a blessing upon you that as you pray you will have a feeling of how the Lord feels regarding your work and what you're doing, whether He is pleased with the extent of it, whether there needs to be more," he said.
He blessed the group with guidance from the Holy Ghost as they seek it in prayer and added that he is grateful each time he goes to the temple to do work for a deceased person who has been identified.
"I feel there is a closer relationship in that sacred experience within the walls of the temple. Personally, I pray while I am there that if they are not in a condition of worthiness on the other side of the veil to accept and benefit from that ordinance, that they change their life so that this vicarious ordinance that has been done to help them in their eternal progress will be of benefit to them."
The audience consisted of Church members from various locales who traveled to Salt Lake City for the conference. The devotional with Elder Scott was carried via live feed over the Internet.
In addition to Elder Scott, panelists included Jay L. Verkler, managing director of the Family History Department; David Rencher, chief genealogical officer of FamilySearch; Ransom Love, director of strategic relations; and Craig Miller, director of member needs.
Questions to the panel were submitted in advance via e-mail and live from audience members in the meeting hall. Here is a sampling of questions and responses:
Question: How much researched information is sufficient before the name of a deceased ancestor can be submitted for temple work so as to avoid duplication or errors and the resulting wasted effort in temple ordinance work?
Brother Rencher said the current system of preparing names for temple work minimizes duplication by requiring interrelationships as identifiers. "Our people have to get to the point where they trust the new system," he said.
Brother Verkler added that there must be a happy medium between settling for merely a name on a census record and years of research into land and probate records. "Use your judgment on the amount of work and rigor to not be on either extreme," he said.
Question: What is the Church's direction with family history centers outside Utah's Wasatch Front? Will family history centers be closed?
Brother Verkler said the increasing online access to digitized records and the process for clearing names for temple work may at some point obviate those two purposes for family history centers. But he thinks there will always exist a third important function filled by the centers: help, experience and guidance. "Right now, we don't have any plans to roll out of family history centers as a mechanism, as a whole, because that help and experience is pretty important in doing genealogy,' he said.
In Utah, where there is a "critical mass" of Church members doing family history, the department is experimenting with a larger regional family history center — located currently in Riverton — where resources for a number of stakes can be consolidated.
Question: Will Personal Ancestral File (PAF) the personal computer software developed years ago by the Church and familiar to many users, be upgraded so as to communicate with new.familysearch.org, as so many other programs can do now?
Brother Miller said, "With the resources we have, we've chosen to allocate the resources in building the giant databases and the infrastructure necessary to support the Church and the world in doing their genealogy." Thus, the Church has moved to an Internet-based model for compiling individual family history. Meanwhile, PAF has not been supported with upgraded releases for more than a decade, and free downloads of the product will not be included in future versions of familysearch.org. Commercially available products have either a free or an inexpensive version that currently integrates better with FamilySearch products than does PAF. "We recommend that patrons begin looking at these other programs and their capabilities so that we are not so dependent on PAF," Brother Miller said.
Brother Love said the Family History Department will continue to encourage third parties to collaborate with FamilySearch. "The more people, the more resources we can get involved in doing really good things that are compatible with what we're doing and in the same direction, we'll try to do that."
Question: How do I inspire and motivate my priesthood leaders?
Elder Scott said, "Many of them need to be educated. They need to know what you're doing, what's available to be done now. It isn't that they don't want to cooperate. They don't know how. So if you run into that, try and acquaint them with the urgency, the importance of what you're doing, the fact that it requires priesthood supervision, and I'm sure that with some more teaching and understanding, some of this problem will be resolved."